Actually, this one isn’t nearly as difficult as the last. I still haven’t answered that last one, not really. I could keep trying but I don’t think I can ever actually describe how I see the Gods. I don’t know if it’s limitations in my writing skills or limitations in the Universe. Either way, it just doesn’t work. It’s fun to try, though.

Next question, again from p. 16 of “The Circle Within” by Dianne Sylvan.

“How much thought have you given to your personal path and why do you do things the way you do? Have you been running purely on instinct, following books by the letter, or a combination of the two? Does your altar face east for a particular reason, or because a book said it should?”

Actually, my altar doesn’t face east; it faces north. Or, I should say, when I face my altar, I’m facing north. This is not for any deep esoteric reason, nor is it because of any instinctual urging. It’s because the most convenient, useful place for an altar happen to be on the north side of the house. It’s more important that I am able to use the altar, that it fits the surroundings, and that I like it than for it to face east. This is not a bad metaphor for the way I practice my path.

I resisted joining a group or putting a name to my path for a very long time. It’s always been personal to me. The term “eclectic” gets sneered at by certain types in the Pagan community – you know, by those people that seem to really like sneering – as being a sign of shallow spirituality, of unwillingnessto commit to deeper practice. I was eclectic, still am, and always will be, but my practice has never been shallow. I refuse, however, to adopt a practice or belief that doesn’t work for me or that I disagree with simply because other people say it’s what I’m supposed to do. I have faith because my deepest heart tells me that certain things are true, not because a book or a Big Name Pagan said it was so. I’m willing to try just about anything, as long as it doesn’t conflict with my ethical standards, but if it doesn’t work for me I won’t keep doing it.

I notice that I keep talking about things “working” and that might be odd language for what I’m saying. How do I know if a ritual, or a meditation, or any other practice “works?” It’s mostly a feeling – a feeling of connecting with something deep and real – something bigger than just myself, or something important within myself. In the case of something like an altar or a tool, it “works” if it helps me make the kinds of connections I’m trying for, or if it helps me get into the state of mind I need to be in. That’s the biggest reason why I do things the way I do – because they work.

That said – I’ve noticed something interesting since committing myself to the AODA. I have gotten into the habit of using the Sphere of Protection and the standard Grove opening and closing before and after doing just about any kind of spiritual work. That’s not odd – they work, and so I do them. What is odd is that I decided the other night to do without, because I was working with some different material that had instructions for a different kind of opening and closing. The opening given didn’t work for me. So, I gave up and did my usual Grove opening and then did the other opening, and it was fine. I used my normal practices to bracket this other practice; without it, it just wouldn’t have worked.

I had to think about this, afterwards. I was a little perturbed to find that I needed that particular practice to get something done. I don’t like needing things. I don’t even drink coffee every day, even though I like it, because I dislike the feeling of dependence. I hate addiction. However, the conclusion I came to is that there is a reward for consistency, and dependence doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It’s not like I’ll ever be in a situation where I need to do the Grove opening and can’t – while I use tools to do it, I could do it without them. The reward is that I have this technique, practiced enough to be habitual, that automatically gets me to where I want to go. If I want to do something else, like the practice I was doing the other night, I start out with a boost that is easy to get and effective.

The gods of the Druid Revival don’t “work” for me – Celi, Hu, Esus, those types. I wish they did, but they just leave me flat. So, I don’t call on them. Some of the AODA practices work for me, and some, like the god names, don’t. I have no problem with taking what works and leaving the rest behind, and one of the reasons I can be part of this group is that this is OK with them. If it wasn’t I couldn’t do it, because in spiritual practice I always place my own experiences ahead of anything written on a page.